All That Fruit!

This is a time of tumult, clearly. The old tumults (the anniversary of the death of an old sweetheart) and the new tumults (relocation to Oregon and the surprising “loss” of my firstborn) are exhausting and severe, but they are mingled with new joys: reuniting with cherished friends and getting to know this house.

This house! It’s old. There are layers of I don’t know what under the newish sheetrock. I can see the layers of old walls and repairs in the stairs leading to the basement and the exposed step from the backdoor. Yesterday I finally had the courage to open that one (formerly locked) cabinet door in the downstairs bedroom, fearful of what I might find. It was raw, unloved space, littered with scraps of carpet, flooring, and perhaps cans of things I cannot use. I shut the door quickly. Next time I look, I’ll grab a flashlight… Such spaces disturb me (there are reasons). And yet it was a glimpse into the past of this house.

Don’t worry, dear. From now on, I’ll take better care of you.

I knew this house was destined to be mine from the moment a friend forwarded its Zillow page. I seem to be a house-getting witch, as I’ve had uncanny luck over the years finding those places which call to me and are meant to be mine, at least for awhile. This one though, this one is special. I believe it is meant to be my last home, which, like a last love, has a special poignancy.

The ceilings are very low, making me feel rather tall (a first in my life!). My real estate agent thought it might have been a millworker’s house, built with cast-off lumber, wrongly sized. The house is spacious, though, with a sizable basement and two finished attic rooms in addition to the first floor space. The remodeling was cursory, with ridiculous things left unfinished or poorly done (the edge of a new door left unpainted, the bathroom sink fixtures plumbed all wrong, and so on). But I like eccentricity and age in a house. Even the uneven floors don’t bother me much.

I really am giddy with my good fortune here — and so grateful for it. Much as I adored my house in Lake County, CA, I grew terrified by the location. All those fires and only a two lane highway to exit the lake valley… the prospect of having to herd seven cats into crates at a moments notice and flee a fire racing through the oaks and pines in the hills behind my house… not knowing where in the world I could go with all those cats… not a good situation for a single, aging person with a few physical impediments! This all too likely danger preyed on my mind. I may miss the turkey flocks which roamed my yard, but I have feathers with which to remember them.

So, back to THIS house. I live now in the middle of a micro-orchard! I have five cherry trees (Bing and that golden kind), at least two mulberry trees, several plum trees (Italian prune, Santa Rosa plums, ornamental plums), several extremely tall fig trees and a few younguns, a pear tree, what am I missing? Oh, I forgot to mention the Concord grapevine which has climbed via the front yard mulberry to fruit above my roof. All the fruit is far above my head and simply crashes to the ground. However yesterday I reached through an attic window and managed to snag two ripe figs! They were glorious.

All my trees are overgrown and stressed by the drought. I don’t believe anyone has watered them this whole summer. An arborist I have hired had much to say on the topic — and scorn for whoever neglected these trees.

I have wisteria too, in several spots, and one bush is actually prying part of the wood from the house! (We can’t have that!) There are lilac bushes by the front gate (the arborist says they are dying) and several rose bushes (not in great shape but managing). There is a simple white hibiscus tree as well as a camelia. I am not a gardener but I suspect I will spend these last years of my life attempting to become one. And I must get a food dehyrator and canning equipment to cope with all this fruity abundance! I see several learning curves in my future.

For several years I’ve been lucky enough to live in places with beauty and ample plant life. In the last 3 1/2 years I lived with the view of Clear Lake and Mount Konocti, among oaks and digger pines. Before that I lived in Hawai’i, on the “Big Island,” surrounded by giant red hibiscus trees as well as coconut palms, ohia lehua, and invasive strawberry guava. Now I live four blocks from the Willamette River, with close-up views of numerous trees and tendrils and fruits out of reach. I feel protected and kindly sheltered by all this plant life, as well as by the house itself. It’s as if this place had been waiting for me all along. It’s very hard to shake this feeling. Plus, the cats like it here.

This is a house with a front porch and a sheltered yard–part Hobbit dwelling (the ceiling!) and part “Last Homely House”(the feeling!)–whose delights I wish I could share with both my children. Alas, I guess that’s not meant to be.

Here are the figs I snatched through a window last night and promptly devoured.

Figs picked through the attic window. Sept. 3, 2021.